LazyEye, Telegraph Calcutta

Kaagaz ke Phool, Kaagaz ke Kaante

Beware you are nobody
If your body has no papers
You are nothing but a body
And you shall pay for the drapers.

There is a historic, metaphoric dread and coldness attached to that question when it pops up: “Papers, please?” I would recommend a reading. A reading of the past remains critical to understanding the present and the negotiation of the future. What would you do today if you did not know what you were yesterday? What would you tell tomorrow where you’ve come from? “Papers, please.” How do you think you may react to that question? Actually, that is not put to you as a question. That is put to you as a demand. A dare. “Papers, please.” Consequences follow.

Papers? What papers?

I am trying to understand, and the more I do, the less I understand.

I am here. I have been here. I inhabit a body. I inhabit a place. I have a name and a gender. But how am I to know all or any of that is true, or certifiable? Who am I?

I am the consequence of a mating. A Male.

A Female. In the normal course the Male would be my father. The Female would be my mother. But how am I to know? “Papers, please.” But where would I get the papers? My father and my mother, allegedly so, did not beget papers. They were not doing whatever they might have been doing to beget papers. They were doing what they were doing to beget me, and they most likely had no notion I would be begotten as a consequence of what they were doing. What papers? I was born in blood, washed down some pewter tray in some hospital if I was fortunate enough to have been begotten in a hospital. That is what happened. And I am here. Ab batao.

I am here, but I do not know who I am. I do not have a name because where are the papers?

I do not have a home because where are the papers? I do not have a native place because where are the papers? I do not have a country because where are the papers? I may not even be me because where are the papers? But I can feel myself, a being, a breathing living moving feeling being. What’s to be done to this being without papers? Ab batao.

But papers are important. Papers are necessary to have. Remember the time the TossOfAllThings had waved his hands and tossed all our papers into the trash can? Just wantonly, on some whim. You have papers? Those papers that you have are papers no more, they are dust. And then he clapped and congratulated himself for the vanishing trick he’d so summarily and comprehensively played. Remember how it felt for the papers to have suddenly evaporated? From your pockets? From your little home kitties and piggybanks? From your accounts? From the machines that coughed your money at your given commands? Remember what the sudden want of papers reduced you to? Papers are important.

What are they to do who are only flesh and bone and blood? No papers. What am I to do who has no papers and nothing to say to the demand of “Papers, please” ? All of me, these many parts and their sum and all of that exists within and about — like a soul, for instance, like my thoughts, my likes and dislikes, my longings and my desires, my meditation and my rumination, my will or the lack of it, my kinships and how they are arranged, my enmities and how they work, my dreams, my nightmares — all of those things become the consequence of the lack of papers, or the scattered smithereens of it. No papers? You are nothing.

Beware you are nobody

If your body has no papers

You are nothing but a body

And you shall pay for the drapers.

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